Micellany: Xootr Roma kick scooter review
I spend a lot of time inside a city office nowadays, surrounded by an ocean of concrete and asphalt. Even walking downtown to eat out can take a good chunk of the lunch hour. At the same time, driving or biking there is impractical - a bike takes up too much space in my office, and parking is expensive and hard to find.
Enter the Xootr line of luxury kick scooters. Weighing in at about ten pounds, a Xootr is far smaller than even the smallest folding bike, and can be tucked away on a bookshelf or underneath a desk without bothering anyone. At the same time, it offers a much faster way of traversing urban terrain. I bought a Xootr Roma and put it through its paces. Is this my new urban transport?
With 7" wheels and a 2 foot long deck, the Xootr Roma dwarfs a typical kid's scooter. For commuting, this extra size is a huge advantage: it's much, much easier to get the Xootr going (and to keep it going), and an adult can ride comfortably with both feet on the deck. Like with anything else, there's a bit of a learning curve here (especially when it comes to switching your kicking foot), but a few days' worth of practice is all it should take to start feeling comfortable on a Xootr.
On average roads or sidewalks, the ride itself is fairly comfy. Keep in mind, however, that Xootrs have no suspension at all. The hard small wheels can make for a jarring ride on poor road surfaces, and people with sensitive ankle or knee joints may not be able to handle it. Paths that you wouldn't think twice about traversing with a bike can become vibration-filled hellholes on a Xootr. Even if you're in good shape, cobblestone, small tiles, and broken sidewalk can sap the fun out of a ride quick. And don't get me started on anti-skateboard pavement.
The cruising speed of a Xootr depends on a lot of things, including your kicking power, wind, grade/elevation, and road surface. I’ve clocked myself several times on relatively level terrain, and I can hit an average of 8-9 miles per hour in real-world conditions (including traffic lights, occasional portaging, and pedestrians).
This video by wheetgeneration does a good job showing how fast a Xootr is compared to a bike. As it turns out, a Dad on a Xootr is no match for a hyped-up kid:
In practical terms, the Xootr is roughly twice as fast as walking and half as fast as a bike. More important than raw speed, though, is the ease of getting to that steady 8 mph cruising velocity. My 5k time is a laughable 29 minutes; in comparison, only the most dedicated runners can keep up with me on a Xootr, even after I've been riding for over an hour.
Best of all, the Xootr can be folded in seconds and brought onto a subway, bus, or train with little fanfare. If you're careful, you can even shop for groceries or walk through a crowded area with it - not something that could be said for any bike. For the mixed-mode commuter, or for the office worker on lunch hour who wants to get to that bookstore a few blocks away, the Xootr's portability is a big deal.
Riding at night - The Xootr's sensitivity to road conditions makes riding dangerous at night, and downright suicidal in places with no streetlights. A 2" lip of broken pavement can stop your Xootr cold, while you go careening past the handlebars at breakneck speed. Add in the possibility of collisions with pedestrians, bikers, and cars, and it'd probably be more prudent to pack the Xootr away when the sun goes down.
Riding in wet conditions - Xootrs use polyurethane wheels that do a good job of gliding over asphalt, but that same low friction makes it hazardous to ride when the road surface is slippery (you'll also get pretty soaking wet from the wheels and deck). And for Pete's sake, don't go down any kind of incline when it's wet.
Riding off-road - The Xootr is basically a pavement-only device. After all, your entire body weight is being put on the bearing surfaces of two hard, 7" wheels. Scooting on sand, dirt, grass, or gravel is usually a no-go.
Helmet - A no-brainer. Any decent biking or skateboard helmet will do the job.
Carrying Strap - A very handy piece of kit that Xootr sells. When the Xootr is collapsed, there's enough slack in the loop to hang off a shoulder. The strap also ensures that your handlebars are at the same height when you extend them.
Fender with Integral Brake - Almost mandatory, not so much because the integral brake is more effective, but because you'll wear out shoes quickly if you ride the back wheel constantly. As for the fender, it helps keep the rear wheel from splashing water on you (good for small puddles and such). As I warned above, do not ride the Xootr in the rain unless you want a live-action interpretation of "Short Ride in a Fast Machine."
Compared with other Xootr Models
All Xootrs share the same handlebars, wheels, and front tube; the differences come in their decks. I’m pretty familiar with wheeled commuting (biking, skateboarding), so I went with the Roma deck - the thinnest, lightest, and most portable of the bunch. The only downside is that the Roma’s slim deck can make switching feet tricky.
Each deck type has something going for it. The Ultra Cruz's birch deck is cheapest, has that classic California surfboard look, and is slightly more comfy to ride (the wood helps dampen vibration). The Xootr Mg is a nice balance: cheaper than the Roma, almost as light, and the magnesium deck is still wide enough to put both feet on. The Xootr Street and Xootr Venus are bigger versions of the Roma, and might be the ticket if you value both a wide deck and the load-carrying capacity of machined aluminum (say, if you plan on taking your 5 year-old along for a ride).
Compared with other Kick Scooters
There are a number of kick scooters aimed at adults. Those on a budget might want to try the Razor A5 Lux, an upsized version of the Razor scooters that you see in Toys "R" Us. The A5 Lux is pretty chintzy (made in China, max rider weight 220 lbs), but it also retails for about a third of what a Xootr does.
For those who want something tougher, the tank of the kick scooter world is clearly the KnowPed, a 13 pound beast of a scooter made by Go-Ped, with a max rider weight of 400 pounds. There are various other brands you can try; few are as commuter-oriented as Xootr.
I'm quite happy with my Roma. Admittedly, at about $240, the cost of admission was quite high. Once you unpack it, though, it's obvious why the Xootr Roma costs more than a cheapo Razor. Bottom line: if you have the cabbage to spend, you can grab one of the world's lightest, fastest commuter scooters.